by Dr. Bill Black


To compliment the beautiful music of their organs, Wurlitzer went to great pains to decorate the facades of the organs. In the case of the Wurlitzer style 153 organ, they describe the facade as follows: Fancy white enamel front, hand carved scroll work in gold leaf and colors, raised panels with landscape and flowered designs.

These landscape paintings were sometimes painted on raised panels, inserts and other times on the surface of the organ front. Scenes with mountain forests, streams, lakes, castles and ocean views were often used.

Each year, we go to Ocean City. Maryland for our vacation. In walking the boardwalk over the years, I took note of several places where they sold oil paintings and have a large selection. In thinking of a painted scene for the front of the 105, I wondered if one of these could be used on the front. I had in mind to take one of these paintings and cut it into pieces to fit into the cutout areas on the front. I planned to use these scenes on the side cutout areas and lower panel. The center cutout area would be open to allow viewing of the pipework.

So, with measurements in hand, finding a suitable painting was a top priority during last summers vacation. There were various scenes to choose from but the ocean scenes appealed to me most. One in particular had a lighthouse, ocean view, breaking waves, seagulls and beach (PHOTO A). A very nice oil painting, just what I was looking for. The tape measure confirmed that the size was sufficient to fit into the cutout areas. Price was $60.........a real bargain. The picture was carefully packed into the car for the trip home.

Now to fit the picture with the front. I placed the painting on the floor and put the front cutout frames over the picture to visualize how to arrange the picture (PHOTO B). It was now apparent that the entire painting would fit into all the cutout areas. To cut it into pieces would really breakup the entire impression created by the whole scene. Maybe the front would look best if I used the painting in the center cutout area also. This could be done by cutting the lower part of the painting off and using that piece in the lower panel area of the front. The upper portion of the painting could be used in one piece to fit across all three cutout areas. Since the center of the painting was the most appealing part of the painting, I decided to change my plans and not have the pipework exposed after all.

The canvas with the oil painting was removed from the board on which it was mounted. I made a thin plywood mounting board with several cutouts to allow the sound to come out, stapled the painting to this board and fastened this to the back of the front frame. The lower part of the painting was mounted in a similar way and installed in the lower panel frame on the organ front (PHOTO C).

Now to plan the color scheme for the rest of the organ. To do this, I took a digital photo of the organ from a front view and loaded it into the computer. I then used a graphics program to paint this picture of the organ front on the computer. This was a bit time consuming, but it allowed me to see what the organ would look like in various paint color schemes. I eventually chose a light blue and white theme with dark blue accents on the trim. Then, I made a trip paint store to look at their paint chips and buy the paint.

The front was then prepared with a primer paint, sanded a bit and several coats of the paint applied according to our computerized paint scheme. The molding around the cymbal was carved and mounted on the crown (PHOTO D). I also couldnąt resist doing a bit of gold and silver leafing on these moldings to see how they would look. This is as far as we will go on the front decoration for now. More decorating will be done later.

Next month, we go back to work on the internal parts.....

Dr. Bill Black is one of the nation's most knowledgeble Wurlitzer band organ experts. He has made recordings of many band organs and other mechanical music machines which are available for purchase at CarouselStores.com.